Seventeen steps to a better-looking, more professional newsletter

by Nancy Rathbun Scott

Professional designers know how to create a road-map that will guide readers effortlessly through a publication. Always, readability is paramount. Novice desktop publishers, on the other hand, often are tempted to apply all the bells and whistles a program has to offer. But what's fun for the artist/editor, can be confusing to the reader. The secret password-particularly when publishing compact, information intensive newsletters-is restraint. If you're unsure how to exercise that restraint, take these 17 steps. The result will be good-looking, readable publications.

1. Be moderate in all things (variety of typefaces, number and variety of graphics, use of bars and rules).

2. Be consistent (page after page, month after month, the same size text, the same size headlines, the same positioning of page numbers, the same leading, etc.)

3. Master the grid. Understand it and make it sacrosanct.

4. Read a good book on typography.

5. Keep type selections very simple-perhaps, one typeface for heads, one more for text .

6. Use only one dominant visual per page.

7. Use pull quotes, sidebars, charts, and graphs to break up copy.

8. Increase readability with liberal use of subheads, bulleted items, numbered lists.

9. Use clip art sparingly.

10. Develop a consistent graphic treatment for department headlines-a display typeface and perhaps a small graphic, for example.

11. Set newsletter text size at 9 to 11 points.

12. Don't use all capital letters, particularly in headlines.

13. Use bars and rules, perhaps between columns or within department headings, for a fresh, modern look (but don't over do).

14. Try initial caps or drop caps to signal the beginning of major articles.

15. For a contemporary, professional design look, use downstyle heads (that is, capitalize only the first word of the headline), set the headlines flush left, not centered, and set your text copy ragged right, not justified.

16. Design all your pages as double page spreads, which is how readers view your newsletter.

17. Leave 20% white space. Nothing will give your newsletter a more professional look. Nothing will invite better reading.

Nancy Rathbun Scott is a business writer living in the Washington, D.C. area. She can be reached at Visit for more information.

@2004 Nancy Scott